82.7 F
Charlotte Amalie
Friday, April 19, 2024
HomeNewsLocal news@ School: Montessori and International Academy Uphold Carnival Tradition

@ School: Montessori and International Academy Uphold Carnival Tradition

Shorunagh McWeeney measures a student for her parade costume.In varying styles, shapes and shades they gathered after class in the shadow of the school’s solar awning, a conglomeration of kid-sized humanity, attention focused on the sprightly adult stepping lightly to recorded soca sounds, and – with varying degrees of success – following her moves.

“Please don’t hit people on the right, don’t hit people on the left. Be aware of your space,” the woman instructed.

Pausing after a particularly frenetic bit, she added, “I like free dance, but in performance it looks like scrambled eggs … Let’s try again … Remember, big movements …”

This is not the first time Lisa Chamely-Aqui has brought order out of chaos, and she clearly delights in doing it. She’s volunteered on the committee for the V.I. Montessori and Peter Gruber International Academy’s Carnival entry for seven of the eight years her daughter has attended school there. She arranges the music and choreographs the dance that will move the students down the street in the Children’s Parade, May 1.

This year, she is one of four co-chairs. The others are Franklin Pickering, who designs the costumes; Nicole Edwards who works closely with Pickering and coordinates props and volunteers; and Shorunagh McWeeney, retired head of school.

“She’s our institutional memory, our head consultant and our school liaison,” Chamely-Aqui said of McWeeney.

At last Thursday’s rehearsal, she was also chief tailor. Clipboard and tape measure in hand, she wove her way through the dancers, measuring those who had not yet been sized for their costumes and marking her findings down on a chart.

Long before the international academy was added, Montessori established itself as a Carnival stalwart.

“I came in 1977,” McWeeney said. “Carnival was already in swing at the school.”

Since her tenure started, she could remember only two years when the school didn’t participate; once in the wake of the devastation of Hurricane Hugo, and once when there weren’t enough people volunteering.

Franklin Pickering displays a headdress he create for the Montessori School's Children's Parade entry.Some years, the school includes a float – thus making the entry a “floupe” rather than a “troupe” in Carnival parlance. McWeeney recalled past entries have included fire-breathing dragons, and erupting volcanoes, contrived with dry ice. Students have represented a wide spectrum of the world and of history, including Carib and Taino peoples indigenous to the region.

“It is a huge amount of work,” McWeeney said, which is why some schools participate only every other year. But the Carnival spirit at Montessori is strong.

“The PTA gives us a generous donation every year,” Chamely-Aqui said.

There won’t be a float this year, but there will be a large troupe; 31 lower school students and 10 or 11 high school students have signed on, she said. The theme is “Cultural Mix for the World to See.”

High school students will lead the way, dressed to represent international cultures and illustrating diversity in the Virgin Islands, she said. The Montessori students will follow, wearing traditional island costumes and depicting farmers, coal carriers and market women.

Their music is a mix of soca tunes by two Trinidadian artists, “On My Way” and “Like Ah Boss” by Machel Montano and “Meet Me on the Road” by Fay Ann Lyons.

At Thursday’s rehearsal, Pickering showed the younger students samples of their costumes and tried headpieces on some of the girls, adjusting sizes as needed.

It was old hat for sixth grader Chantel Carty who said she’s been in seven previous parades. She was having no problem learning the steps for this year’s routine.

Devin Degannes, a seven-year-old second grader, said she paraded last year for the first time. It was “very hot” but she kept cool along the parade route with ice baths. Apparently she enjoyed it; she was front of the group last week, diligently following as Chamely-Aqui marked out the dance.

As the session proceeded, the “scrambled eggs” started to come together, and the dance began to gel. With three more practices scheduled, the troupe promises a good showing come Children’s Parade.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.

Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.